On climate change, Republicans shift from obstructing to moving backwards

Obstruction is one matter, but reversing progress against greenhouse gas emissions is another, and the Republicans are going there, from coast to coast.
Late last week the U.S. Senate shot down an effort by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to strip EPA power to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant, which would have undermined new fuel-economy standards accepted by automakers this summer.
A day earlier in San Diego, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman–the former eBay CEO–promised to act by executive order to suspend California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which brings the state into compliance with the Kyoto Protocol.
And lest these be perceived as rogue actions, they’ve been endorsed by the likes of Newt Gingrich. American Solutions, Gingrich’s “tri-partisan citizen action network,” endorsed Murkowski’s amendment, which she plans to offer repeatedly until it reaches the Senate floor:
Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Murkowski plan to continue to resubmit the amendment as frequently as they can. Make sure to call your senators and encourage them to vote in favor of this measure whenever it reaches the Senate floor, and tell them you support a rational debate rather than a parliamentary procedure that avoids even considering the measure.
If the American Clean Energy and Security Act–the climate bill–fails to pass in Congress this fall, the EPA can enact a cap & trade system for carbon dioxide on its own. (Reports of cap & trade’s demise have been premature wrong). The EPA began efforts to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant in February, prompting Congress to take up the effort legislatively. The Senate version will be introduced Wednesday.
If Congress fails to act, EPA can initiate a cap & trade system through the Clean Air Act, similar to the one implemented in 1995 to regulate sulfur dioxide.
Many of the objections Republicans are now raising to cap and trade were raised then:
Created under Title IV of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the Acid Rain Program defied critics who saw it as a costly mistake that would burden the economy and concentrate pollution in regional “hot spots.” Instead, emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrous oxide (NOx), which mix with water, oxygen and oxidants in the atmosphere to cause acid rain, have declined dramatically nationwide at far lower costs than expected.
The reductions have had a significant health impact, too: The annual health and welfare benefits of the program are estimated to be $122 billion, in year 2000 dollars, and the prevention of “tens of thousands of premature deaths each year,” says Sam Napolitano, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Markets Division.
Murkowski’s amendment would ostensibly give Congress more time to consider cap & trade:
“Murkowski said the regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act is being used as a ‘thinly veiled threat’ against the Senate to force action on climate legislation ‘regardless of where we are in what remains an ongoing and incredibly important debate,’” according to her press release. “Murkowski’s amendment would simply remove the gun from the Senate’s head and allow time for a full and robust debate.”
But that threat has never been veiled. The Obama Administration has been holding the gun to Congress’ head since February, and the debate has hardly been tepid.
In a letter to Sen. Diane Feinstein, EPA admnistrator Lisa P. Jackson revealed the thinly veiled threat of Murkowski’s amendment–that it would halt efforts already underway to combat carbon dioxide pollution, such as the new fuel economy standards. The White House has projected those standards will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program and reduce 900 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
The GOP obstructs efforts to combat climate change by raising the short-term prospect of taxes to distract Americans from the long-term prospect of climate change. But what effect will a regressive platform have on the GOP when it contradicts science and promises to cast the Republican Party as the one that fiddled while the world burned?
Can voters be scared into turning against programs that are already underway? As ugly as yesterday was, can it be yesterday again?

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